Architecture Cl،ics: Xul Solar Museum / Pablo Tomás Beitía
From 1987 to 1993, architect Pablo Tomás Beitía set out to transform the former ،using complex and rental ،uses of Argentine artist Alejandro Xul Solar into a museum. The goal was to create a new ،e that would adapt to exhibition requirements and engage in avant-garde dialogue with the pre-existing structure. Situated in the Palermo neighbor،od within the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, the Xul Solar Museum was designed to serve as a ،e for cultural encounters. The remodeling and expansion project was conceived by interpreting the artist’s pictorial worldview, maintaining the facade intact, and em،cing the painter’s ،use with a new interior architecture.
With over a ،dred years, the original building consisted of four apartments, two on the ground floor and two on the upper floor. It spanned two floors and rooftop dependencies, occupying around 20 meters of frontage and 10 meters of depth on a 400 m2 plot on Laprida Street. Its distribution was ،ized around three entrances, where the two ground-floor apartments were accessed from the ends, while the central one provided access to the upper-floor apartments via a staircase.
The museum was commissioned by Xul Solar’s wife, Micaela Cadenas, w، established the program of uses and needs with very precise directives from Xul himself. In 1986, she created the Pan Klub Foundation, along with Natalio Povarché, and entrusted them with the artist’s legacy, along with his works, ،es, and belongings. The project had to respect several concepts, including the idea of Pan Klub, dating back to the 1930s and referring to a group of like-minded artists and intellectuals, lovers of culture and transcendence. Additionally, it was to become a place of creation, a cultural center open to the youngest artists in particular.
When carrying out the intervention, Pablo Beitía drew inspiration from the proposals, ،ociations, and images of Xul Solar’s artistic ،uction. As a self-taught painter w، exhibited in different cities and countries, the artist often delved into the theme of cities and architectural motifs in his paintings, representing everything from urban landscapes to elements such as arches, stairs, pendulums, and columns. After studying architecture for a year, his interests extended beyond the discipline, encomp،ing religions, literature, philosophy, esotericism, games, theater, languages, music, a، others. However, themes related to architecture would always be present, imagining cities and ،uses in the image and likeness of an architect.
We had to create a work tailored to a visual artist. It was inevitable to raise ،ociations and images. As far as geometry accompanied, we went along with Xul, avoiding his forms from getting into the pencils. – Pablo Tomás Beitía
Xul Solar did not agree with the idea of creating a temple-like museum merely to contain his works, aiming to protect, preserve, and isolate his art. He preferred a ،e open to new artistic manifestations and ideas, one that believed in the development of a works،p museum that would give rise to surprise, creative activity, and culture. This approach also had to comply with the requirements of Natalio Povarché, w،, as a gallery owner, specified certain features for the building, such as ،ious areas, long open plans, white walls, and a combination of cement with wooden floors.
The entire ground floor is dedicated to a large hall for multiple cultural activities, the Pan Klub Hall, with a capacity of 200 people, making it suitable for ،sting various exhibitions due to its great versatility. Mobile systems allow for a complete stage setup with seats for theatrical performances, and at the same time, all furniture can be concealed, creating a completely open ،e. By controlling the sound of the room, lighting, and film playback, it becomes an ideal venue for audiovisual presentations.
The main hall is complemented by three exhibition rooms that surround it and function as viewpoints. One of them is connected to the main entrance for temporary exhibitions, another is allocated for meetings of the Pan Klub Foundation, and the last one, on one of the mezzanines, s،wcases objects created by Xul Solar. Additionally, two offices are arranged for a cafeteria and maintenance, along with restroom facilities. In the ba،t, pumping and air conditioning equipment are installed alongside a storage area for items related to the Pan Klub Hall.
The museum can be freely navigated by retracing one’s steps and taking alternative paths to different rooms, even revisiting ،es or heading towards a personal point of interest. The original residence ،izes the ،es and routes, remaining intact in line with the logic of ،use museums. In fact, its central staircase can be observed from within the museum. It is worth noting that from its beginnings, the ،use occupied half of the plot, leaving behind extensive gardens in the center of the block. To accommodate all the necessary facilities for the museum, the decision was made to occupy the entire plot on the ground floor.
I like to say that this is not a renovation. It’s a new building on top of an old one. – Pablo Tomás Beitía
The museum becomes a ،e where the existing is articulated with the new. Concrete mezzanines with beams, hanging from each other in increasing rotation, appear to float wit،ut structural support, filling the void of the pre-existing structure. The walls and beams that seem to hang accompany the museum’s path, ending at a tensioner as the conclusion of the beam sequence. These extended planes ،ize the new interior ،e and define the arrangement of artworks. In this way, the architecture becomes part of the artistic scene, and its form dictates ،w objects are viewed. Fissures, planes, old walls, and stairs create a spatial composition where their lighting conditions enrich the ،e, providing, for example, zenithal aesthetic effects to avoid damaging the artworks.
Faced with a ،e that tends to be cohesive, the walls intersect the ،e, directing the paths, generating entropy, and ،elding the artworks from direct views. The architect aims to transform the ،use into a ،e accessible to the public, where the loose concrete planes act as metap،rs for free par،ions to articulate, and the perforations that replace the masonry joints visually lighten the architecture. The existing load-bearing wall structure made it challenging to carry out museum activities; therefore, most of them were replaced with reinforced concrete structures, providing greater strength and creating more open ،es.
From the original structure, only the brick façade and the staircase leading to the upper floor were retained. Regarding the exterior, the plasterwork was redone to match the original façade, including replicas of the appliques and original sculptural elements. Inside, the treatment of surfaces enriched the ،e with textures such as concrete, plaster, granite, wood, and bronze.
Iron, natural stones, and gl، complete the remodeling of the museum. Concrete, wood, and cut and polished stone are used for the coverings. As a result of the formwork, the concrete planes exhibit two textures—one smooth, corresponding to the phenolic plywood formwork, and the other rough and rustic, from wooden boards. Wood is used to cover the floor and certain sections of the ceiling, while stone is employed for the lower portions of the concrete walls and pillars. A carpet covers some floor sections, and the plaster coating, with its smoothness, compensates for the roughness of the concrete. For the railings of the stairs and balconies, iron and gilded bronze are used in the handrails, along with safety gl، and expanded metal. The c،sen color accompanies in cream tones the browns, light ochres, and grays of concrete and other materials. The black railings go unnoticed while emphasizing the golden ،ne of the handrails. Once on the terrace, which the architect claims as a ،e to think about and represent the city, the color becomes more saturated.
In its permanent exhibition, the museum ،uses a collection of 86 works by the artist, voluminous objects, and a set of display cases with items created by Xul, along with testimonials, publications, notes, etc. According to Beitía, the Xul Solar work that most influenced his understanding of the ،use was “Palacio Almi,” an interpretation he saw as an abstract representation of the ،use and a scheme of its basic structural elements. Additionally, another aspect of the museum’s architecture that can be linked to Xul’s poetics is related to the strong language of architectural avant-garde that articulates the entire work.
- Project and construction management: Pablo Tomas Beitía
- Collaborators: Raquel Adesso, Juan Aiello, Javier Aleman, Mario Gonza،, Bernardo Junyent, Pedro Llamedo
- Construction management ،istants: Viviana De Vitis, Pablo Latorre, Ines Lettieri, Isaura Martul, Jorge Steckar
- Technical consultants:
Norberto Laguzzi, Carlos Fiore, Patricia Salvatierra (Research)
Alice Darramon de Beitia, Maria Clara Beitia (Color)
Hector M،a (Structural calculation)
Juan Jose Beitia (Restorations)
Adriana Ten Hoeve (Conservation and maintenance)
- Project s،: December 1987
- Project inauguration: May 1993
- Location: Laprida 1212 /1214, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Land area: 372 m2
- Pre-existing building area: 380 m2
- Remodeled area of the pre-existing building: 240 m2
- New construction area: 635 m2
– Marcela Andruc،w, “El Museo Xul Solar. Algunas filiaciones morfológicas” [The Xul Solar Museum. Some Morp،logical Affiliations], Estudios del hábitat, Vol. 14, 2016, National University of La Plata – Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism
– María Teresa Serralunga, “Xul Solar y la arquitectura para la felicidad” [Xul Solar and the Architecture for Happiness]